Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Chile, never a very visible country on the diplomatic social scene, altered that image Tuesday night when its still new ambassador to the Organization of American States, Maria OyarzuErrazuriz, gave a reception for Chile's new ambassador to Washington, Jorge Cauas.
"The fact is that we are not a rich country so our social budget is small," explained Herbert Nuller, a Chilean on the OAS staff, citing a party nine months ago as the last one with "over 30 people." "The former government, the Allende government, was interested in public relations. This government has worked a stablizing the country," said Nuller. "Also the new ambassador to the OAS is a woman and that has changed the social outlook."
In a way Cauas, the former finance minister of Chile whose economic policy has helped reduce the country's phenomenal inflation, eased the way for more entertaining visibility. "I decided to take the post because the economic program has been partially fulfilled, we reduced the inflation rate from 1,000 per cent to 150 last year," he said. Cauas, 40, studied economics at Columbia University and has worked previously in Washington at the World Bank.
Uppermost on Cauas' agenda is improving the image of his country, most often described as having a repressive atmosphere. International organizations such as the OAS and the United Nations have cited Chile for human rights violations.
"The general comments are very difficult for us," said Cauas, who described President Jimmy Carter's stand on human rights as "important" and added, "We feel the subject of human rights is most important mainly to restore the fabric of society lost in the last government."
Tuesday night's reception, held at the OAS ambassador's house on a wooded, residential street in Bethesda, and attended by many of the diplomats of the OAS countries, was marked by informality.
Ambassador Oyarzun-Errazuriz's two children alternated between skateboarding in the driveway and hanging up coats. The ambassador herself, a 40-year-old former journalist for La Tercera, a tabloid newspaper, prepared the meal herself. During the evening, she rubbed a cut she had received in the daylong preparation process.
The only person in uniform were the waiters who circulated with trays of Scotch on the rocks.
Washington's ranking foreign diplomat, Nicaraguan Ambassador Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, was ver visible, jubilantly announcing that he had become a grandfather for the seventh time Tuesday. Gale McGee, the former Wyoming senator and now the U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, said he was there learning. "I'm a freshman in this business so I get out to associate names with the faces," he said. "Chile is an important participant in all the areas of the OAS."
Among the 150 guests, including Latin American representatives of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the conversations were mostly in Spanish.
Frank Devine, the acting deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-America Affairs, credited his personal friendships with other guests, his past assignments to Chile, as well as his current duties, for his psresence. "In my official duties Chile is one of the most important countries; it's important on our scale of values," said Devine.
Even though some of the countries have opposed Chile's internal policies, the reception conversation was truly diplomatic. "We have the best of relationships," said Roberto Lazarus, the ambassador from Honduras. "We have openly criticized Chile in the OAS, not in a hostile manner but with constructive criticism," said Alfred Rattray, the ambassador from Jamaica.
"But we have nothing but friendship oon other matters."